Kampen has been buzzing with activity since the thirteenth century. Fishermen, craftsmen and merchants created hustle and bustle in the nautical town on the banks of the Ijssel. This lively atmosphere is present still in this medieval Hanseatic city.
During the Middle Ages, Kampen was one of the most powerful and prosperous towns in North-West Europe. Brought to prominence due to the Hanseatic League, the European Union avant la lettre. It is not a surprise that Kampen grew into a wealthy and thriving Hanseatic city. Both the IJssel river and the Zuiderzee were major factors, as it allowed the nautical town to trade with the hinterland and overseas. The spirit of medieval merchant still linger in the streets and alleyways.
Even the entrance is remarkable. The Stadsbrug (city bridge) with its golden wheels catches the eye immediately, as well as Kampen’s skyline. Historical buildings, gateways and churches rule the vista of the town, not high-rise construction. This is the view the medieval merchants would have been presented with when returning to their town on their koggeschepen (Cogs) from Scandinavia, Germany or the Baltic States, laden with goods.
Would you like to take a closer look at a medieval coaster? Visit the Koggewerf, were you can see the ultimate symbol of Kampen: The Kamper Kogge.
The medieval streets of Kampen have a noticeable air of traditional industriousness: • Kampen boasted one hundred cigar factories at one time. Nowadays, on factory remains: De Olifant in the Voorstraat. Here, 80,000 cigars are still made every week. • A little further along, a forge master works in the only (and centuries-old) forge still in existence in Kampen. • Also, only one of the dozens of breweries in Kampen still remains: De Wereld. You can order one of their beers in maybe the brownest cafe (traditional Dutch pub) in Kampen: the Stomme van Campen.
When walking through Kampen, you may discover many murals between the well-preserved facades and warehouses. These are advertisements from bygone eras that have been restored to their former glory. There is plenty more cultural and historical heritage to admire in Kampen. It is as if you are travelling back in time: • Old farmsteads that were built on the IJssel river dunes during medieval times. • The Koornmarktspoort, the oldest gateway in Kampen. • The Nieuwe Toren, a steeple without a church, only to show the outside world how powerful Kampen was. • The Bovenkerk, the first cathedral in the Netherlands, with a world-famous organ.
There are some five hundred national heritage sites, museums and other landmarks to be discovered. Also, entrepreneurial spirit and the love of trading are still alive and well in Kampen. As well as all its historical locations, the town also boasts contemporary museums, galleries and shops. And as befits a true harbour town, there are plenty of pubs and other nightlife.